Islington – central, diverse and a chic shopping venue

Islington is sometimes lost to sight behind other, perhaps more famous, London boroughs but it has a lot to offer the discerning visitor.

The area is easily accessed, with great coverage via bus, tube (Highbury and Islington, Angel, etc.) and Islington cab.

Shopping: from chic to cheap

Take an Islington taxi, to Camden Passage (ask for Pierrepont Arcade) which since the swinging Sixties has become one of the foremost areas of antiques trading in London. There are now more than 200 retailers in the Camden Passage area, with an incredible range of antiques, collectibles and vintage items. You may spot a few famous faces too – those who hunt through Islington’s wares for one off purchases include Kate Moss, Emma Watson and Will Young. Camden Passage proper is open from 7am to 6pm on Wednesday and Saturday.

Hoxton Street – at the other end of the shopping experience is Hoxton Street Market, which operates on Saturdays (trade is desultory and stall-holders largely absent on other days of the week). Pick up excellent fresh ingredients, cheap clothing and lots of unexciting but necessary household goods. Watch out for the really good all day breakfasts, well worth trying!

Islington History

The Angel at Islington was a coaching inn, long since torn down, but the neighbourhood’s role as a transport hub is preserved in the London Canal Museum which offers a twofold focus, on waterway transport and on the history of ice transportation. There are vast ice-wells beneath the museum in which ice imported from Norway was once stored. Activities are varied, from towpath walks, summer boat trips through the Islington tunnel (book ahead for this) and Children’s Activity Days in August. There is also a summer visit from Mikron Theatre Company, a four person ensemble which produces historical plays on board a narrowboat!

Islington’s little angels

Children need not feel neglected. For the sporting type there’s the Arsenal (Emirates) Stadium Tour. It’s a rare opportunity to visit the Directors’ Box and the changing rooms where Arsenal’s stars get ready for a home match, before walking down the players tunnel. You can even sit in the Manager’s seat! The tour includes a visit to the Armoury, which is in fact a souvenir shop. Finishing with a tour of the Arsenal Museum, it’s a substantial experience which is only marred by the lack of on-site refreshments. Under fives visit free.

Clissold Park – with its extensive lake (pond dipping platform available for free use) and paddling pool (open May to September) Clissold Park is one of the best kept secrets of North London. Not only is the park beautifully maintained and highly child friendly, it has a small but very well chosen selection of animals. Currently there’s an aviary of exotic birds, some domestic birds and enclosures for goats and deer. Every summer, from mid-April to September the butterfly dome is open. It holds a selection of native and tropical butterflies and is free to visit. Many youngsters find it an enchanting experience and if you are a large group you can book a guided tour to really ground yourself in the butterfly experience. Best reached by Islington cab, ask to be dropped at the Clissold Park entrance off Church Street, postcode N16 9HJ.